The Arizona U.S. District Court ruled against environmentalists challenging a U.S. Forest Service (USFS) decision to allow limited off-road big game retrieval by elk and bison hunters on the Kaibab National Forest in Arizona. The State of Arizona intervened in the case on behalf of hunters, and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation filed an amicus brief, supporting the USFS and Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD).
“It’s interesting to note that the plaintiffs’ lawsuit targets hunters’ motorized big game retrieval, which is a small segment of off-highway vehicle use in the forest, but does not challenge other legitimate cross-country motor vehicle use. It suggests their lawsuit was filed more out of opposition to hunting than true concern for our natural resources,” Pat Madden, chairman of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission, previously stated.
Three Forest Service districts in Kaibab National Forest issued a travel management rule that allowed hunters to use motor vehicles to retrieve downed big game within one mile of existing roads. This happened in cooperation with the AGFD in order to aid in the retrieval of bison as both agencies want to encourage hunting to reduce bison numbers in the area. For some hunters, a harvested bison or elk can realistically be packed out of the field only by motorized transport.
“Hunters play a critical role assisting the Arizona Game and Fish Department in managing elk and bison herd populations,” added Madden.
The Court’s decision throws out the plaintiffs’ claim that the Forest failed to “take a hard look” at the impacts of motorized game retrieval. Environmental groups have 30 days to appeal.